23andMe broadens R&D footprint with new genetic service through Apple's ResearchKit

23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki

23andMe is rolling out a product that runs through Apple's ($AAPL) ResearchKit to collect genetic information from study participants. The move plays into the company's broader focus on research, as 23andMe looks to R&D to recover from a falling out with the FDA over direct-to-consumer genetic testing.

23andMe has already signed on Mount Sinai and Stanford University School of Medicine to its service. Mount Sinai will use the company's technology for its Asthma Health App, which allows people with asthma to contribute to a large-scale study of the condition through their iPhone. Patients, after giving informed consent, can submit their genetic information through the app, which could help researchers find new, personalized treatments for asthma, 23andMe said in a statement. The study includes about 8,800 people in the U.S., U.K. and Ireland.

Stanford University School of Medicine will draw on 23andMe's service to add genetic information into its MyHeart Counts app. The app collects data about patients' physical activity and cardiac risk factors through ResearchKit. That information, along with user-inputted genetic data, could help scientists uncover ways to prevent and treat heart disease, 23andMe said in a statement. Stanford University's study with the MyHeart Counts app comprises 50,000 people in the U.S., Hong Kong and the U.K.

23andMe isn't stopping there. The company is also building an option into its service that allows researchers to offer its genotyping services to study participants. The agreement stands to benefit both sides, as 23andMe and can expand its collection of genetic data and customer base and researchers can gather genetic data for their studies.

"This new technology gives researchers a turnkey way to integrate genetics into their studies. This will enable research on a much broader scale. Incorporating genetics into a platform with the reach of ResearchKit will accelerate insights into illness and disease even further," 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki said in a statement.

23andMe's latest effort also bolsters its recovery plans after falling out with the FDA a few years ago. In 2013, the agency slapped the company with a warning letter for selling its $99 genetic spit tests without proper approval or required data.

The move prompted 23andMe to take business in a different direction. The Mountain View, CA-based company has since relied on deals with biopharma partners such as Pfizer ($PFE) and Genentech to keep its engine running. Last year, the company launched a new therapeutics group with Genentech vet Dr. Richard Scheller at the helm, further driving home its commitment to R&D.

23andMe has also made good with the FDA, which has allowed it to broaden its reach. In February 2015, the company got a regulatory blessing to market its DTC genetic carrier test for Bloom syndrome. In October, the FDA cleared the way for the company to roll out health-related genetic testing that gives customers a suite of reports with information about health, ancestry, wellness and personal genetics.

"We've worked with the FDA for nearly two years to establish a regulatory path for direct-to-consumer genetic testing," 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki said at the time. "We are a better company with a better product as a result of our work with the FDA. This is an incredibly dynamic time in genetics and we're excited to be at the leading edge of bringing genetics directly to individuals as they begin to learn about their 23 pairs of chromosomes."

- read the statement

Special Report: The most influential people in biopharma today - Anne Wojcicki - 23andMe

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